Tone & Emotion: Making the Most of Your Voice

emotional singing performance

The Importance of Natural Tone and Style

Most people have a natural tone and resonance to their singing voice which may be altered or improved by singing lessons and vocal exercises. Various tones are particularly suited to one style of music, for example, a nasal tone tends to be used in singing country music, therefore a person with this type of sound should consider performing that style of music when seeking a career in singing.

How Vocal Tone is Produced

Tone is produced in the same way as a note, the air passes through the vocal chords causing them to vibrate, this travels into the head cavities which act as a resonating chamber adding richness and depth which affects the quality of the notes produced. Each singer has a unique vocal tone and resonance depending on the size and shape of their body and understanding of vocal techniques, therefore, an experienced singer can not only control the amount of airflow through the vocal folds but also the placement of notes as they travel through the resonating chambers.

Techniques for Improving Tone

Improving the tone of the voice entails learning to open the throat, releasing tension and projecting the voice without straining or pushing. Experiment with mouth shapes, tongue placement, vowels and consonants to discover how they affect the tone and resonance of the notes.

Matching Music Style to Your Tone

There are no real rules when it comes to the type of music performed, but as a general guide it is always preferable to fit the type of songs you sing to your vocal tone and style.

Singing with Emotion: Making the Song Yours

Singing from the heart and feeling the mood of the song will add natural emotion to your performance and any vocalist should always put their ‘life experiences’ – good and bad to constructive and positive use by choosing songs that you can relate to and express well through your singing.

Understanding Lyrics and Song Mood

Read the lyrics of the song carefully and think about how they make you feel. Is the song telling a story which you can relate to? How would you interpret the story? Which words or sections evoke the overall ‘mood’ of the song? Will it work in another melodic format i.e., changing the tempo or style.

Vocal Tricks and Emotional Techniques

The emotional aspect of a song can be enhanced by using sounds that are associated with the mood of the song. A sad song performed with a ‘catch’ in the voice at relevant points and smiling whilst performing a happy song will reflect in the voice and improve the overall feeling you are trying to portray.

Practising and Interpreting Songs

When learning a new song, play or sing it several times to get the ‘feel’ that the lyrics and music are trying to convey. Perhaps you feel the song should be performed at a slower or faster tempo. Maybe your interpretation differs from that of the original artist. Whatever emotion you experience when practising the song should be explored and if appropriate, included in your performance of the song.

Don’t be afraid to play around with songs, even the ‘classics’ – muck around with the tempo & style that you sing it in. Change the notes, keys and rhythm, add catches in your voice, growl, laugh, trill notes, harmonise and play with the song in every way possible. This will help you to gain a better understanding of your vocal capabilities and should help you to perform the song with your own unique style.

At this point it should be noted that whilst these ‘tricks’ can be used to enhance the song – it is always more advisable to be real. Practising the different ways of portraying an emotion with your voice is really only a means of learning about its qualities and not a substitute for real emotion and expressiveness. This does not mean you need to immerse yourself in the song during a live performance (although some singers prefer to work this way). Dealing with the emotions during the learning and practice sessions allows the singer to soak in the information required to reproduce the right effect in the correct places whilst concentrating on other aspects of performance. Whichever way works best for YOU is the right way!

Balancing Technique and Emotion in Performance

This leads to another dilemma. Technical perfection or emotive quality?

A good singer should strive for both, however, there are songs which you will prefer to others and sing with more passion, this may mean that you are thinking less about the notes as you become caught up in the mood of the song. That’s fine! The audience will be more forgiving of a singer whose emotion is genuine even if the notes are a little off in places, than one who is technically perfect but displays no expressiveness or enjoyment during their performance.